America's Best Racing
Count Fleet: Wartime Triple Crown Hero Print E-mail

America’s Best Racing
The Jockey Club Website
May 2013

This spring marks the 70th anniversary of Count Fleet's Triple Crown glory.

He was a “freak” before the label was coined. He crushed his opponents by huge margins, galloping ahead of the pack, daring someone to catch him, and knowing no one could.

Count Fleet was a seal brown, slightly built temperamental colt, headstrong and maniacally competitive.  CF 2

“If you took a hold of him, he'd bolt. He'd try to run for the outside fence,” said his longtime rider Johnny Longden. “His unpredictable manners didn’t exactly endear him to anyone. But when that leggy brown colt wanted to run, he could just about fly.”

Count Fleet’s owner John D. Hertz had emigrated from Austria to Chicago and quit school when he was twelve for a job selling newspapers on street corners. Later the co-owner of a Chicago automobile dealership, Hertz converted ten of his cars into taxicabs and founded the Yellow Cab Company. Ten years later he purchased a rental-car company in 1923 that grew under his leadership to be the largest in the world.

Much of Hertz’s enormous wealth was funneled into the business of racing and breeding thoroughbreds at   Stoner Creek Stud near Paris, Ky. In 1927, Hertz bought Reigh Count for $12,500 and the next year they won the Kentucky Derby. Hertz sent him to a hard-knocking sprinter named Quickly-- the mating that produced Count Fleet.  As an ornery youngster Count Fleet was difficult to ride. He made such a poor impression that Hertz wanted to sell him.

"That horse is going to kill you some day," Hertz told Longden, his contract rider.

Wise Dan's Sire Gains Redemption Print E-mail

 America’s Best Racing
The Jockey Club Website
April 2013

Ears pricked, eyes focused, a cavalcade of future thoroughbred stars prance up the tree-lined lane and down to the famous Ballydoyle gallops. Beyond the gallops the Galtee mountains soar.  From this training center in Tipperary County legendary trainers named O’Brien have sent out winners of eight Epsom Derbys, and every other race in Europe worth winning.  WF 1

When Wiseman’s Ferry hit those gallops in 2001 he was joined by precocious juveniles by the names of Rock of Gibraltar, Landseer and Johannesburg. Another companion that spring was Galileo who would go on to establish himself as the best three-year old in Europe.

These days Galileo is recognized as the premiere stallion in the world. He sired champions, both male and female, like he was delivering the morning paper. His 2009 stud fee was $225,000 and in both 2012 and 2013, his fee was listed as “private” by Coolmore, an honor shared by his sire Sadler’s Wells.

For Wiseman’s Ferry, not so much. It’s been a long and winding journey to redemption. Bred in Kentucky, a handsome son of Hennessy, Wiseman’s Ferry was sent to Ballydoyle and raced as a 2-year old in the dark blue silks of Mrs. John Magnier. Racing in top-flight Irish competition Wiseman’s Ferry turned out to be a cut below Ballydoyle’s elite runners.  He was sold to an American racing syndicate where as he became a two-time American graded stakes winner during his 3-year old season.

Sir Barton: Forgotten Hero Print E-mail

America’s Best Racing
The Jockey Club Website
March 2013

John E. Madden was the consummate horseman. He bred champions. He broke, trained and raced many of the good ones himself. The shrewdest horse trader of his era, he cashed them in too.SirBarton 1

In the early decades of the twentieth century his Hamburg Place Farm in Lexington, Ky. was the celebrated birthplace of Kentucky Derby winners Old Rosebud, Paul Jones, Zev and Flying Ebony.

Hopes were high at Madden’s showplace breeding center for greater glory in 1916 when a compact chestnut colt with a crooked blaze was foaled.  The colt was given the regal-sounding name Sir Barton. His grandsire, Isinglass, had been crowned England’s sixth Triple Crown winner in 1893. Isinglass’ son, Star Shoot, was brought to the United States in 1912 where he topped the American sire list five times.

As a two-year-old, Sir Barton’s lofty pedigree proved to be a bust. He raced four times for Madden, finishing out of the money each time. Plagued by tender hooves, a trait he inherited from his sire, the malady gave him a particularly nasty disposition. Grouchy and stubborn, Sir Barton had little time for people, horses, and other animals with one exception-- his groom, Toots Thompson.

Man o’ War: The Measuring Stick for Greatness Print E-mail
The Jockey Club Website
March 2013

Perched high on the bluffs above the Susquehanna River and at the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay sat one of America’s most revered racetracks, Havre de Grace. Racing history was minted here.MOW 1A

During early morning works the mist rose like steam from the water, the sun pale and golden. In the spring of 1919 a feisty Man o’ War turned up in preparation for his two year-old campaign. “Big Red” had the whole backstretch buzzing.  Ruggedly handsome, he struck his regal, high-headed stance. His coat was rubbed and brushed, and gleamed like polished copper.  Grooms, exercise boys, and trainers hugged the rail when he stepped onto the loamy track. With his long, effortless stride Man o’ War ran other horses off their feet from the beginning.

In all the history of American horse racing no thoroughbred has ever quite matched either the brilliance or popularity of Man o’ War. He is the measuring stick for greatness in horse racing. Though he competed for just two years, Man o’ War was a national hero, joining Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and Red Grange as the first shining stars of the Roaring Twenties.

"He was as near to a living flame as horses ever get, and horses get closer to this than anything else," wrote legendary racing writer Joe Palmer. “It was that even when he was standing motionless in his stall, with his ears pricked forward, and his eyes focused on something above the horizon which mere people never see, energy still poured from him.”

Hialeah Park: The Glory Days Print E-mail
The Jockey Club Website
January 14, 2013     

He was the founding father of Florida horse racing. James Harrison Bright bred the first Florida thoroughbred at his farm in Davie, and later teamed up with a friend in starting a thoroughbred farm  near Ocala. Today, the region is one of the nation’s top breeding centers.Hialeah 7
A native of St. Louis, Bright arrived in Florida in 1907. Five-feet, seven inches and 130 pounds, “Uncle Jimmy” as he was known, was typically seen in a dapper blue suit with a little collar and a bow tie.   Bright was operating a cattle ranch on 3,000 acres to the west of Miami by 1920 where he rode his pony all over the property. Familiar with quantities of black marl, Bright reckoned the soil could provide good footing for a racetrack. When his friends heard his theory, old Jimmy was thought to have truly lost his mind.

Bright and partner Glenn Curtiss gave the land-- 160 acres carved out of swamplands-- to the Miami Jockey Club for a nominal $10, provided that it was earmarked as a racetrack. Their daring gamble succeeded.

The Miami Jockey Club began racing at the Hialeah Racetrack on January, 25, 1925. A crowd of 17,000 showed up at a clubhouse and grandstand built to accommodate 5,000. Among the celebrities were dancer Gilda Gray, creator of the shimmy, and Gene Tunney who one year later outslugged Jack Dempsey to capture the world heavyweight crown.

Hollywood Futurity 1991: A. P. Indy Coming Out Party Print E-mail
The Jockey Club & NTRA Racing Website
December 8, 2012

He proved to be one of a very small number of top-priced yearlings to earn more on the racetrack than his purchase price.  A big, muscular, and mature colt, A. P. Indy was easy to spot on the track with an unorthodox running style in which he kept his head low, almost like a greyhound, with that distinctive long, rhythmic stride.APIndy6

A son of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew and dam Weekend Surprise by 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, he was the star attraction at the Keeneland July auction in 1990. Back then A. P. Indy was known as Summer Squall’s younger half-brother by Seattle Slew, who had just won the Preakness after running second to Unbridled in the Kentucky Derby.

That was a huge boost to A.P. Indy’s Keeneland catalog page. Noel O’Callaghan of British Bloodstock Agency Ireland, bidding on behalf of Japanese businessman Tomonori Tsurumaki, outbid trainer D. Wayne Lukas’s client  at $2.9 million, the most expensive price of the year in a depressed market.

“We figured we’d have to be brave and bid fast,” said O’Callaghan.

Jockey Club Gold Cup: King Kelso Print E-mail
The Jockey Club & NTRA Racing Website
September 29, 2012

Kelso owned the Jockey Club Gold Cup.Kelso 8

Racing’s stoutest champion test, the Jockey Gold Cup was run at two miles when mighty Kelso notched five in a row on his way to five consecutive "Horse of the Year" titles from 1960 to 1964. His triumphs (by a collective 28 lengths) were the equivalent of five straight victories in the Breeders' Cup Classic, a feat that surely will never be matched.

Back in the day the Jockey Gold Cup ruled as racing's crowning event. First run in 1919 and known as the Jockey Club Stakes, the Cup was the centerpiece of the Belmont Park Fall Championship Meeting. The second running was captured by the immortal Man o' War, who was held under strong restraint in order not to humiliate his lone rival Damask. Even so, he powered home by 15 lengths and broke the American record for a mile and a half.

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